Is “podcast” really the right label for the content we produce? Can just any audio or video content on the Internet be a podcast? And is podcasting really the thing you should be doing for your hobby or business?
This topic was suggested in part by Jason Bryant from the Short Time wresting podcast.
Challenging the Podcasting Assumptions
This is a special miniseries to challenge the ideas podcasters have accepted as truth for years. Some will stand up against the challenge while others crumble, and some will reveal new options you may have never considered.
- Are you really a “podcaster” and should you really be podcasting?
- Does your podcast NEED interaction or an email list?
- Is iTunes really THE place for podcasts? Do you NEED a mobile app?
- Does SEO really matter in podcasting?
- Do you REALLY need to edit your podcasts? What about authenticity?
- Do you REALLY need audio/visual branding or promos for your podcast?
- Should you launch your podcast with Episode 0? Does iTunes New and Noteworthy REALLY matter?
- Are Episode Numbers REALLY Necessary?
- Does audio/video quality ACTUALLY matter? Is a dynamic mic REALLY the best?
- Do you REALLY need passion? Is consistency THAT important?
What is a “podcast”?
“Podcast” is a technical label for a specific method of distribution. By definition, a podcast is episodic audio, video, PDF, or epub content distributed through an RSS-formatted XML feed and downloadable via the “ tag.
YouTube content isn't a podcast
You can distribute the exact same content from your podcast onto YouTube, but nothing on YouTube is actually a podcast. YouTube doesn't publish downloadable links for videos and doesn't offer properly formatted RSS feeds for channels.
Multimedia on a website isn't a podcast
Audio or video on a website, even if in a series of blog posts, is not—technically—a podcast if the multimedia files are not distributed in the RSS feed via an enclosure tab. This is one of the things that FeedBurner helps you do. It can take a regular RSS feed with plain download links to media and turn it into a podcast feed with the right tags and other information. (But only use FeedBurner when your CMS doesn't already give you the power and freedom to create and own your own RSS feed.)
“Podcast” doesn't mean professional or amateur
There's nothing about “podcast” that requires amateur or professional. A podcast could be infrequent from a little kid in his play room, or it could be a daily show that is also broadcast over radio.
The lines are blurring
Where this gets more complicated is when big companies like Stitcher or Clear Channel (creators of iHeartRadio) make apps and services that distribute shows. Many of these shows may be powered by a podcast RSS feed, but some of them aren't. iHeartRadio and Stitcher aren't technically podcatchers because you can't manually add an RSS feed to them. But these apps, and others like them, do give you another way of consuming podcasts and other shows that are very similar to podcasts.
Don't mix terminologies
Just like “podcast” is a label for a specific kind of distribution, so are “radio,” “television,” and “newspaper.” In particular, I hear some people call podcasting, “Internet/online radio.” This only confuses the matter because it's inappropriately mixing terminology. As soon as content is distributed to through the Internet, it's no longer a radio show because it's not on the radio.
Many will call podcasts “Internet/online radio” because it's easy for people to understand. (I'll suggest a better title in a moment.) I think we should explain this better. You can say, “It's like a radio or TV show, but downloadable through the Internet.”
Think about some of the other specific labels we sometimes misuse.
- Videotaping—When was the last time you saw a video camera that records to tape?
- Video and DVD—Disney was guilty of this for a while. Calling VHS “video” and separating DVD. The truth is that they're both video, just in different media formats.
- DVD—This is a new problem. When we want to own a movie we saw in the theater, it's easy to ask, “When is it coming out on DVD?” But we may really want the Blu-Ray or to purchase it digitally through iTunes, Amazon, or another service.
- The Web—”The Internet” and “The World Wide Web” are actually not synonymous. The Internet is how you get your email, social network updates, Netflix, system updates, view websites, and more. But the World Wide Web is specifically the part of the Internet that is home to websites. (That's why websites used to all use “www,” but that's no longer necessary or recommended.)
Yes, words change meanings. Like “book” no longer means only a printed or handwritten work of fiction or nonfiction. But “radio” is short for “radio waves.” You may download your podcast through some kind of radio waves (wi-fi or cellular), but that doesn't make the content radio as soon as you unplug from the wire.
Conclusion: What is the best label for the content we create?
I think it's also not always a good idea to tightly embrace the term “podcast”; we can misuse that, too. For example, don't call the content you upload to YouTube your podcast, because it's not a technically podcast on YouTube.
This is also why I recommend against using the word “podcast” in your titles. It's like movies using “movie” or books using “book.” Imagine if JK Rowling called it, “The Harry Potter Book”; or if Marvel called it, “The Avengers Movie”; or if Taylor Swift called her album, “Red Music Compact Disc.”
Yes, there are exceptions, like “The Lego Movie” and “The Bible” (which actually means “The Book”).
In general, I think we should brand our content without the media, which gives far more flexibility to take that title across media. For example, “the Ramen Noodle clean-comedy” works on YouTube, a podcast, a blog, and more.
When we're talking about the audio or video content you product, I think the best label is “show.” It's extremely flexible, accurate, and people will understand it.
This doesn't mean “podcast” is a bad word that we should stop using! We need to educate people on this new content-distribution method, just like people had to do when broadcast radio and television were becoming popular. Podcast is a new method of distribution that deserves its own label. Despite the many attempts to popularize other labels, like “netcast,” “podcast” is here to stay and we should do our part to help everyone place it as an additional way of consuming content, along with books, television, radio, newspapers, blogs, websites, social networks, and more.
When I tell people, “I host a talk show on the Internet,” they can relate and get a good idea of what I do. I can further educate them by saying, “You can subscribe for free to automatically download the latest episodes on your computer, mobile device, and even some new cars. It's called podcasting.”
Are you really a “podcaster”?
Ask Jeff Goins if he's a blogger and he'll say, “No, I'm a writer.”
Ask JK Rowling if she's a book author and she'll probably say, “No, I'm a storyteller.”
Don't limit yourself
I think we limit ourselves when we call ourselves “podcasters.” That, by definition, means that we only distribute episodic content syndicated through RSS as downloadable media via the “ tag. Try that as a pick-up line!
Conclusion: You are more than your media distribution
“Podcast” has its place in our language, but we need to look beyond a particular format or media distribution method and use a more appropriate title for ourselves. “Talk-show host,” “broadcaster,” “journalist,” “reporter,” “speaker,” “subject expert” and more would be more appropriate and less restrictive.
Should you really be podcasting?
You have a message to share, but does that mean a podcast is the best way to do it?
Why not podcast?
Spencer Haws made quite a commotion in the podcasting space when he published a blog post, “Why You Should NOT Start a Podcast.” It was essentially the complaints from laziness and unmet high expectations. Cliff Ravenscraft spent about two hours to specifically and kindly challenge Spencer's points, after that, Spencer had a change of mind and published, “Maybe You SHOULD Start a Podcast Afterall….”
There are, indeed, some reasons to probably not podcast. (A single one of these being true doesn't mean you shouldn't podcast.)
- You're not a good communicator
- Your voice is hard for listening
- You want to podcast just for the money
- You have no idea what to talk about
- You aren't allowed to have a public platform
- You're afraid of what people think
- You don't have enough discipline to be consistent
- You don't have much technical knowledge and finances
Don't let just one or two of these things stop you. Just like people who advise against two first-borns or two last-borns getting married. It doesn't mean it's a completely bad idea, it just means you'll have some struggles to overcome.
But if most of the above reasons are true for you, then maybe podcasting isn't the best way for you to build a platform at this time.
I often speak at conferences on “Why you should podcast and how to start the RIGHT way,” and here are the five points I usually share.
- Reach a new audience—It happens over and over that a blogger starts a podcast and people find him or her because of the podcast. Pat Flynn, from Smart Passive Income, even said, “More people have discovered my brand through my podcast than any other source” [emphasis added].
- Reach your existing audience in a new way—People can listen to your audio podcast while they drive, work, eat, exercise, mow the yard, relax, in or out of wireless data, and more. You can't read or watch during all of those same activities. This makes your content more accessible.
- Establish yourself as an expert—Because audio and video podcasting focuses on your verbal communication, it's hard to edit yourself to hide poor presentation skills. This also means that people will hear a more authentic voice from you, which makes a far longer-lasting impression than written words. In a podcast, people can hear how well you know your content, how passionate you are, and how good you are at explaining things.
- Market your products or services—A podcast can be a great way to grow your business. When your business is relevant to your podcast, your audience will be far more inclined to work with you or buy your recommendations.
- Build stronger relationships—Podcasting, especially audio, is extremely personal. I take podcasts with me where no one else can go and continue a conversation, like mowing the yard, shopping, or even using the restroom. This already makes a stronger connection because of the frequency and almost intimacy of the communication. Podcasting is also commonly built around passion. When two people share mutual passions, their relationship strengthens and can grow to something mutually beneficial.
Conclusion: Should you podcast?
If you're listening to The Audacity to podcast or reading these show notes, then you've already taken the first step toward podcasting (and maybe several). So chances are high that you should be podcasting. Maybe you just need help overcoming your fears.
Very few people regret podcasting when they've actually invested the time and energy to create great content and communicate it well (and consistently). If you've been struggling to start or stay podcasting, I'd love to help!
- I've scheduled weekly time to write more blog posts and produce more videos, both about podcasting. So make sure that you are subscribed to my email list, and my separate video podcast about podcasting, “Podcasting Video Tips,” on YouTube or iTunes.
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– The Liferocity Podcast
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